Friday, July 1, 2011
Posted: 1:22 p.m. Updated: 9:36 p.m.
By Sarah BaickerCSNPhilly.com
With one tweet, all the skepticism disappeared.
After days of widely circulated rumors about a potential NHL comeback for Jaromir Jagr, the Flyers finally signed the free agent and yes, it's that Jagr to a one-year deal. The signing was first made public via the Flyers' official Twitter account, causing shock to emanate from the microblogging site across the Delaware Valley and beyond.
The deal is worth 3.3 million, about the amount the Flyers were reportedly willing to offer free agent winger Ville Leino, who signed with the Buffalo Sabres for six years and 27 million after talks with his agent broke down earlier this week. On a conference call with reporters, general manager Paul Holmgren said the breakdown of talks with Leino was related to Jagr's signing.
Well, obviously, it sort of just started innocently yesterday," Holmgren said. "I just sent a text to Petr Svoboda, his agent, who also represents Jake Voracek, and I didnt know who was involved. I read over the last few days it was just Detroit and Pittsburgh were the teams, so I just sent him a text about if Jaromir would have interest in playing for Philadelphia and it just kind of went from there, and culminated today with our signing of him.
"So were excited to have Jaromir. Hes going to bring a lot of leadership and we still believe hes a guy thats capable of putting up a fair amount of points. Were excited to have him.
Jagr, 39, piled up points during his NHL career, registering 646 goals and 953 assists. He's currently ninth on the NHL's all-time career points list. However, he's spent the past three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, after leaving the NHL at the end of the 2007-08 season. With Avangard Omsk last season, Jagr registered 19 goals and 31 assists.
Of course, his age is an issue. Jagr has struggled somewhat over the years, and as the Flyers have seen with players like Chris Pronger, injuries can pile up as a player ages. Holmgren, however, downplayed any concern the Flyers had about Jagr's 39 years.
"I think over the last few years hes really taken on an approach where fitness is a real big thing with him," Holmgren said. "I know at the World Championships, whenever they finished a game, he spent the next two hours working out hard. I know Chris Pronger and Danny Briere, some of our players have talked to him, and hes real big in training now and looking after himself and making sure he can still play at a high level.
"We talked to (coach) Peter Laviolette, he wanted to know how our practices were, do we practice a lot, what types of practices do we go through. He said I need to be on the ice, honing my skills and working on things, so I think all those things were a positive for us."
Flyers fans will undoubtedly remember Jagr best for his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins (and for his flowing mane). Jagr spent the first 11 seasons of his career in Pittsburgh and won two Stanley Cups with the team (1991, 1992). After parting ways with the Pens, he played parts of three seasons with the Washington Capitals and parts of four seasons with the New York Rangers.
Interest in Jagr reached a fever pitch when he netted five goals and four assists in just nine games with the Czech Republic's national team at the 2011 IIHF World Championship, though the Flyers have had a scout following the KHL full time, and were assured he's been consistently playing at a high level.
"Theres a reason why there was so much interest and so much hype about him in this free-agent market its because hes a good player," said Max Talbot, the former Pittsburgh Penguin whom the Flyers also signed Friday. "I think he showed the world at the last World Championships that he can definitely play.
"I remember playing against him, he was one of the guys who was always the toughest to play against because he was so big, and he would just control the puck in the corner and make the right play. Hell be a great fit for the Flyers.
Holmgren said he envisions Jagr's success with in Philadelphia will come simply because he's gifted at the game. On a conference call with reporters, the Flyers' GM checked off a long list of Jagr's qualities he believes will help the team: He's a leader. He's strong on the puck. He's dangerous in front of the net. He's got size.
"We think can play at this level," Holmgren said. "We know he can. And we believe he can still put up a lot of points. So were certainly excited to have him."E-mail Sarah Baicker at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SBaickerCSN.
Related: Flyers sign Talbot, another ex-Penguin free agent Greenberg: Flyers make smart call with Jagr